Water in the Basement Calls for Smart Painting Solutions

Answers to paint pros’ most pressing questions by Rick Watson, Ask Your ProPartner columnist for PPC magazine. This time: Rick talks about a painting challenge he recently encountered, and walks us through the product selection process and application methods he used to take care of it.

The situation

Our sump pump quit, and heavy rains led to water in our basement. The carpet needed to be torn out. A one-foot section of drywall and insulation had to be removed in the bathroom area. Anything left on the floor was ruined and had to be thrown away. Once the sump pump was fixed, industrial fans and dehumidifiers were deployed to remove the remaining water. The restoration company also made sure mold and mildew would not be an issue down the road.

Once all that was done, we had to think about what we were going to do. We called a construction company to help get us whole again. But before we had them replace insulation or fix the drywall or install carpet, I went to work. The basement needed a fresh coat of paint on the ceiling, walls, doors and trim.

Step 1: What to do to get the surface ready?

The first thing I did was to wash everything down with a good cleaner degreaser and then rinsed. Then I was ready to start prepping.1

The ceilings only had a couple old water spots on them, so I spot primed the areas with a spray can of ProBlock® Interior Oil-Based Primer. Among other things, this primer is good at blocking and sealing out water stains. It also dries quickly.

Step 2: What paint should I use?

Next step was to determine the paint that would give us the best results. We use our basement primarily for storage and as a space for the dogs when we are not at home. Aesthetically speaking, the ceiling and walls looked old and a bit drab.

I thought this was a perfect opportunity to try a Sherwin-Williams technology that has the ability to reduce VOC levels from possible sources like carpet, cabinets and fabrics2 in a Flat Extra White. Plus, it helps reduce unwanted household odors like pet odors. These technologies are available in SuperPaint® Air Purifying Technology Interior Acrylic Flat, Satin and Semi-Gloss.

Another feature that I really liked is that it had great hide and was very easy to work with. One coat over the existing paint and it was done.

For application, I used two different rollers: the Contractor Series® Soft Woven ½-inch nap and the Purdy® Marathon™ ½-inch nap. I found the Soft Woven cover worked great with little spatter, but it took me longer to paint sections. I liked the Purdy Marathon ½-inch nap because it seemed to hold more paint and gave me better coverage, though there was more spatter than with the Soft Woven cover.

Step 3: What about the walls?

Next I turned to the walls. They were last painted 23 years ago with a semi-gloss oil-based paint. I washed them down and realized I needed to do some spot priming of some exposed metal. Nothing a spray can of Krylon® Professional Sandable Gray Primer couldn’t handle.

Once that task was complete, I figured I would practice what I preach about product adhesion testing. So, I put samples of Emerald® Interior Acrylic Latex Matte on different areas of the decorative concrete walls. I waited a couple days and did cross-hatch adhesion tests on those samples.

The paint had excellent adhesion and to my surprise I found that I wouldn’t have to use a bonding primer. I also prepped around doors and trim and caulked where it was needed. (I used Sher-MAX™ Urethanized Elastomeric Sealant.)

I started with a roller, rolling sections with a ¾-inch nap Purdy Marathon cover, and then went back over the wet areas working the paint into the joints and contour of the wall with a 3-inch nylon-poly brush. The walls turned out great with just a few touch-ups here and there, but this method was a lot of work.

PRO TIP: Use a sprayer and back brush/roll if you can. It would have been so much faster and less pain in the wrist if I had done this instead.

Step 4: What’s the best way to handle doors and trim?

My final task was to finish the doors and trim. I had cleaned them at the same time I cleaned the walls, so the only thing I needed to do was sand and paint. I scuff sanded with 180 grit just to take any imperfections off the existing finish. I then wiped down with a clean damp rag and waited until it had dried. I did remove all the doors and placed them on a makeshift worktable to paint.

PRO TIP: Make sure you mark your doors and hinges and all hardware that you remove, so it’s easy to set the hardware and door back into place once finished and dry.

For the paint, I used Emerald® Urethane Trim Enamel Semi-Gloss as the finish in the High Hide White base. I used a Purdy® Clearcut® Glide 2½-inch brush on the doors and trim cut-in work, then I used a Purdy® White Dove™ mini roller on most of the flat areas, and quickly tipped it off. What a finish! Excellent leveling, hard finish, and the doors and trim never looked so good. I love Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel!

PRO TIP: Most professionals would know this, but just in case… paint your air grates the same color you paint your walls or ceiling. They don’t seem to stand out as much. Also, the addition of a dehumidifier has been a nice touch to keep humidity levels down.

Now there was nothing left to do other than touch up after the carpet is installed. New lights also helped brighten up the room. Now when I go to the basement, I’m not hit with any malodors. Just a clean type smell. I am very pleased with the outcome and very happy to work for an innovative company like Sherwin-Williams for the last 30-plus years!


1WARNING! Removal of old paint by sanding, scraping or other means may generate dust or fumes that contain lead. Exposure to lead dust or fumes may cause brain damage or other adverse health effects, especially in children or pregnant women. Controlling exposure to lead or other hazardous substances requires the use of proper protective equipment, such as a properly fitted respirator (NIOSH approved) and proper containment and cleanup. For more information, call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (in US) or contact your local health authority.

2The length of time SuperPaint Air Purifying Technology Interior Acrylic Latex actively reduces odors and formaldehyde depends on the concentration, the frequency of exposure and the amount of painted surface area. Air Purifying Technology helps reduce VOC levels from potential sources like carpet, cabinets and fabrics and works to reduce unwanted household odors. Odor Eliminating Technology helps reduce common indoor odors so rooms stay fresher, longer.

Rick Watson is director of Product Information and Technical Services at Sherwin-Williams. He answers reader questions about products, application and paint technology in the Ask Your ProPartner™ column in PPC magazine.